Chess and the Search for Joy- Nezhmetdinov and Others!

Chess and the Search for Joy- Nezhmetdinov and Others!


Numerous are the great Masters who regard chess as an Art. Among them Chigorin, Alekhine, Smyslov, Gufeld, Bronstein, Petrosian, Tal and Nezhmetdinov....the list goes on and on! Some of them had the highest sporting success (Tal, Smyslov, Petrosian, Alekhine all became World Champions) while many others did not. Bronstein tied a match for the World Championship (Dr. Max Euwe declared him World Co-Champion!) and Nezhmetdinov sacrificed his sporting results in his pursuit of artistic endeavors of the highest order.

                                             Nezhmetdinov congratulates Tal
                                             for winning the Soviet Championship

Here is a masterpiece by Nezhmetdinov, played in the first round of the Soviet Team Championship....

The following game is another Nezhmetdinov masterpiece. At the time this game was played, Nezhmetdinov was 46 years old and Polugaevsky was 24!

Perhaps the best example of the triumph of the heart over the mind, of the love of chess and its beauty over the competitive result, is the following game, played in the 1961 Soviet Championship between Nezhmetdinov and Tal.
Later on, in an interview, they asked Tal what was the happiest day of his life. His answer? The happiest day of his life was the day he lost the following game to Nezhmetdinov!
Nezhmetdinov's lifetime score against Tal was 3-1, and they were good friends, too!
Nezh was one of Tal's trainers during his WC match against Botvinnik in 1960.
I am drawn to players with a good heart. Chigorin, Rubinstein, Schlechter, Tartakower, Rubinstein, Bronstein, Boleslavsky, Gufeld, Tal, Keres, Petrosian, Nezhmetdinov and Smyslov are some of my favorites. Among them, Tal, Bronstein, Nezhmetdinov and Gufeld stand out.
Perhaps the greatest example is Tal. He was universally liked! Botvinnik usually would develop animosity towards his Wc match opponents, as a way to generate enough energy for the fight.....but he could not bring himself to hate Tal! Botvinnik commented (paraphrase):
"Is it not wonderful, to be loved by everyone?"
Tal gives Fischer a flower.......

Many of these players grew up in the Soviet Union, where chess was used as a political and economic weapon ( for many of these chess players, competitive success could mean a way out of poverty and hunger). Yet in the midst of the need to succeed in order to progress in Soviet society, these men still found that they loved chess as an Art.

For a beginner in the game, the main motivation might be winning, or gaining rating points. It becomes a means of validation. This is important at the beginning of the chess experience; better to have a desire than to be totally unmotivated!

Yet there is another aspect of chess, one that goes beyond winning and losing, and that is the artistic side of chess, the enjoyment of pure aesthetic pleasure. This is way beyond the clash of egos.

Bronstein, one of the most noble chess players I have ever studied, says that he considers his opponent a partner in the creation of a work of art. Both Bronstein and Tal played the piano, a fact that I only learned recently!

It has being said that Rubinstein was so gentle, in his attempt not to bother the opponent, he would move away from the board while his opponent was thinking. Schlechter died of hunger, because he was unable to ask others for that time food in Germany was very scarce (during WWI). Even Einstein was going hungry, but he was lucky enough to have a cousin, the lady who would eventually become his second wife. She fed him. Petrosian lost both parents during WWII, and was starving. An aunt took care of him.
This generation of chess players, they went through so much!

In 1937 Bronstein's father was sent to the Gulag  for 9 years for the "crime against the state" of complaining about a corrupt official who was oppressing some villagers! Bronstein was 13 at the time. How do you survive that?

Petrosian almost quit chess in 1957 because the official press was actively trying to discourage him by criticizing his style, and by treating him as a non-person...they almost succeeded! But he fond inspiration to go on, and became World Champion!

My greatest joy in chess is finding beautiful and inspiring moves or games, and sharing them with other chess lovers on I also enjoy analyzing with friends, trying to find the truth of the position.

Most of the players I like are great Teachers. To teach, you must have some concern for the students; a desire to share with them what you have discovered. In that regard, Tartakower, Nimzowitsch, Geller, Bronstein, Gufeld, Tal and Nezhmetdinov are extraordinary. They inspire me to love chess more!

Another way of teaching has to do with the silent method. There are players who never wrote books, but the games they played are Master Classes that have benefitted generations of chess players. Among them Morphy and Rubinstein stand at the top, for me at this moment.

What inspired me to write this post, this "flow of consciousness" piece?

Some of Bronstein's comments after games. After winning a game at the 14th USSR Championship in 1945 against Kan, where Bronstein played the White side of a King's Gambit:

"This game was played one month after the war was over and many chess enthusiasts, most of them still in army uniforms, filled the theatre. I felt obliged to play sharply to fulfill the wish of the audience to see good romantic chess."

And after the following game against Cherepkov, in the 1961 USSR Championship:

"This game gave us both a lot of intellectual pleasure.....I hope that this game will give you, the reader, as much pleasure as it did the spectators in the theatre who gave us a warm applause."

After the game against Lein in the 41st USSR Championship, 1971:

"This game was played before an audience of more than a thousand people in a large theatre. Although it was a game full of mistakes from both sides, there was a prolonged applause when Black resigned!"

Here is a gem by Petrosian:

                                                    Vladas Mikenas

In the next game, Bronstein uncorks one of the most spectacular rook moves that I have ever seen. His opponent, Vladas Mikenas, was happy after the game, in spite of the fact that he "lost". He said to Bronstein he was happy, because Bronstein had immortalized him with that move! 

I am impressed by the fact that Bronstein, in his book "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", refers to his opponent as "my partner". He is able to divest the game of any animosity towards his rival!

After all, chess is a game. At this time, the sporting element of chess predominates. But at its essence, chess is a game, a game that can be played between friends, and that can give joy. It is a beauty shared!

My main point is this: whether you play chess, or another game or sport, or you engage in artistic or intellectual activities, it is not the greatness of the ego that gives joy. It is the beauty of the art or sport itself that gives joy.

There is a certain nobleness of spirit, a certain goodness of heart, which we carry into any activity, whether this activity is result-oriented or not. Chess has an inherent beauty in the game itself, regardless of who is playing the position. This is why some games are immortal, like some music is immortal. It is the inherent beauty of the game that makes it last. And it is this beauty that moved the audiences to applaud after Bronstein's games!

Best wishes to all!